Power and Conflict notes
The information is taken from:
- Wilmot and Hocker Interpersonal Conflict (2007, McGraw Hill publishers);
- Bernard Mayer The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution (2000, Jossey Bass publishers).
Power is defined as the ability to get our needs met, in addition to furthering our goals. (Mayer p. 50)
- When people try to meet their needs in the face of opposition, they are exercising power.
- Our success is contingent upon how much power we can muster and how wisely we use it.
Wilmot & Hocker group power definitions into distributive,(with force) integrative (joining forces) and designated (gives power to a relationship) domains. (p.95)
- We feel strongly about power—who has it, how we use and abuse power and why we need more of it.
- We want to influence people and situations that are important
- We want to have a voice and to make a difference.
Mayer divides power into two general categories (p 54).
- Structural Power is situated in the context and consists of the objective/concrete resources that individuals bring with them, in addition to the legal and political conditions of the dispute.
- Personal Power exists within individuals and is attributed to such traits as intelligence, knowledge, courage, wit and communicative competence.
Mayer identifies types of power that we may bring to conflict interactions (pp.55-60). Wilmot and Hocker address these “power currencies” beginning on p. 106)
- Formal Authority
- Legal Prerogative
- Rewards & Sanctions
- Procedural Power
- Habitual Power
- Moral Power
- Personal Characteristics
- Perception of Power
- Definitional Power
Wilmot & Hocker group power currencies (bases of power – RICE (pp. 106-110)) into the following categories:
- Resource Control – controlling rewards & punishments (e.g., salaries, hiring, firing)
- Interpersonal Linkages – being central to communication, having a network of friends
- Communication Skills – having persuasive skills, being empathic, a good listener
- Expertise – being skilled at a specific task, process or relational area
An essential question in a conflict is NOT how much power individuals have, but, rather how they choose to use it (Mayer, p. 60). Wilmot and Hocker suggest on page 121 that restraint in using power is an important aspect of power balancing.
- An important challenge to individuals in using power is how direct one is in its application
- Knowing how to develop power quietly and use it sparingly is an essential skill in enacting conflict.
According to Mayer, our sources of power are NOT the same as our uses of power (p. 60).
- Normative Approach (appealing to people’s values and beliefs)
- Utilitarian Approach (appealing to people’s self interests)
- Coercive Approach (threatening sanctions)
Power Imbalances – discrepancies
- If one party has more power than the other, the conflict interaction will be unbalanced.
- Many of the choices conflict participants make will center on attempts to alter these imbalances.
- The imbalance produces systemic effects on the relationship.
Wilmot and Hocker suggest several approaches to balancing power (pp. 121-127). Think about how you or how you have seen others use these approaches.
- Focus on interdependence
- Calm persistence
- Stay actively engaged
- Empowerment of low power people by high power people